Exclusive: Silicon Valley spawns new Nascar lifestyle magazine

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Denizens of Silicon Valley spawned new-economy hothouse magazines like Wired and Industry Standard, and now they're spawning one about Nascar.

American Thunder hits newsstands Feb. 1 with its debut March issue, which features Nascar royalty Dale Earnhardt Jr. on its cover. The title's fronted by IDG and Look-smart.com veteran Val Landi, who will be its publisher and former PayPal VP Aman Verjee, who will be its editor in chief. American Thunder is backed by an investment of between $5 million and $10 million from San Francisco-based hedge fund Clarium Capital Management. An estimated 200,000 copies will be sent to newsstands, while around 100,000 are expected to be sent to charter subscribers, although the launch rate base is set at 100,000.

"There's an opportunity right now to publish a really great, next-generation lifestyle publication focused around one of the largest under-served markets in the country," Mr. Landi said.

Indeed, the magazine is making the unusual move of using Nascar as an entry point to a broader lifestyle bid for young American men. About half of each issue will be devoted to Nascar doings, but the rest will cover heartland-guy topics. The debut issue contains articles on salt-water fishing, deck-building and bomb-defusing; travel tips to Talladega, Ala., and other Nascar hotspots will regularly appear. The requisite pictorial pages on gear and gadgets are here, too.

Nascar, as it's often noted, is the largest spectator sport in the U.S. after football. For good or ill, there's no equivalent title to American Thunder covering football-or for any other sport short of luxe-life paeans that are found in some golf titles. But Nascar culture posits a slightly different fan relationship with the sport that some print buyers believe make it possible to bridge lifestyle and sport.

`true americana'

"This is true Americana," said Eric Blankfein, who works with Ace Hardware as VP-director of media planning, Horizon Media, New York. "The brands and personalities resonate pretty strongly with all these fans." And, he added, Nascar stars "have upbringings and families similar to their fans"-a relatively unique attribute among America's elite athletes.

On the other hand, Mr. Blankfein's contention could easily be applied to extreme and board-related sports, and Time Inc.'s Time4Media shuttered its attempt at a lifestyle magazine aimed at those fans, Stance.

Charter advertisers are offered a "buy-two-get-one-free" deal for the first three issues. Advertisers signed on include the U.S. Army and toolmaker DeWalt. A color full-page ad is $10,000. Mr. Landi said the debut issue would run between 15 and 25 pages of ads in a roughly 100-page issue.

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